According to a recent article from Patch, the average cost of a wedding in Bucks County is $39,020, making it the third most expensive county to get married in the state. Marriage has always been as much of a legal and financial contract as a romantic one, but these days many couples have to choose between having a wedding and buying their first house.
In this guide, we’ll help you start your life together on solid financial footing. Follow these steps to get organized, identify goals, choose an approach to budgeting, and more.
1. Get on the same page with your finances
Have an open and honest discussion with your partner about your individual financial situations, as well as your goals for managing money together. Ideally this would happen before you walk down the aisle, but it’s never too late and also a good idea to check in with a big picture look at your finances once a year. This includes:
- Any outstanding debts that either of you are bringing into the marriage such as credit card balances, student loans, a car payment, etc.
- Shared assets, such as a house or car.
- How do you want to approach budgeting? Do either or both of you have a method that works for you now? Some couples try to share the task of budgeting 50/50, whereas others prefer to assign one person to manage the finances. And remember—if you try it one way and it doesn’t work out, you can always change your approach.
- Looking to the future … list your short and long-term goals such as getting out of debt, paying for your wedding, buying a house, having kids, travelling the world, etc. Whatever it is, think through the financial moves you can make now to set yourself up for future success.
2. Get organized
In addition to creating a budget, it’s important to get other aspects of your shared financial life organized.
- Use a filing cabinet to store important files and paperwork such as birth certificates, social security cards, tax returns, etc.
- Update your beneficiaries to add your spouse to your retirement account, life insurance policy, etc.
- Changing your name after marriage? You can handle the paperwork on your own for every account and ID card or use a service that will do it all simultaneously for you.
- Open a shared checking and savings account. While you may wish to maintain individual accounts for discretionary spending, most couples like to have a joint account for shared expenses and savings goals.
3. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly budget dates.
Whether one or both of you manage the budget, it’s still important to have regular check-ins to help you stay on track toward longer term financial goals and adjust for any changes in your lives or plans. Money can be a stressful topic of conversation, but it doesn’t have to be. Choose a place you both like, such as a local coffee shop, and treat yourself to a special drink or snack. Set a recurring calendar date and then show up.
Then, on a less regular basis (maybe quarterly or bi-annually), check in about your future goals as well. This could mean planning for kids, buying a home, or setting aside money to travel. It’s important to keep having these conversations so that you can plan with your partner, and factor long-term goals into your budget. For example, you could set aside X amount each month to work toward the goal.
4. Start thinking about retirement
It’s never too early to start planning for retirement. Now that you have another person to share living expenses with, maybe you can contribute more to your retirement account. Don’t have a 401(k) plan through your employer? You can still open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to set aside pre-tax money in.
Having trouble getting on the same page with your finances and goals? Consider working with a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) who can help you get clear on your goals and needs to create a detailed plan for the future.
5. Create an emergency fund
Traditional marriage vows ask us to promise “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer.” And most, if not all marriages will go through ups and downs. One way to weather those “worse times” is to save for emergencies such as job loss, serious medical issues, etc. Build a more secure future for your marriage by starting your emergency fund now.
Wondering how to get started on your emergency fund? We have tips on how much to save and what to use it for in this article on “The Importance of Emergency Savings.” And in “6 Habits of Successful Savers,” we show you how to build that saving habit.
6. Make an estate plan
As mentioned above, updating your beneficiaries is important because you want your financial accounts to go to the right person after your death, without that person having to go through the cost and hassle of a legal case. And while a premature death may be the last thing on any newlywed’s mind, it’s important to be prepared for any scenario, so that the hardest times in life can at least be made easier, administratively speaking. An estate plan can be as simple or complicated as it needs to be, with at least a last will and testament from each spouse. Contact our estate administration team with questions.
The First is here to help you build a financial life together!
For more than 155 years, The First has been helping newlyweds in Bucks County start their lives together. Our experienced and friendly team is here to help with personal banking services and a complete menu of Wealth Management Services including financial planning. Contact us with your questions or visit your nearest location in Warminster, Richboro, Jamison, Langhorne, Levittown, Doylestown, Newtown, Fairless Hills, Wrightstown, Washington Crossing, or New Hope.